Friday, 11 March 2011

Agatti Island

Next day half morning goes in preparing for the guests arrival and coordinating the shore transport as well as mapping out reefs.

Agatti Is traffic tower for shipping

Local sheds

Agatti fire engine (I think out of commission)

Early morning I take Anil ashore as he wants to buy some pickle and other condiments from Agatti while we check out the safe route into the lagoon. I follow him as the tender is minded by our Deckhand and we walk some 150m inland, the roads are in the Indian fashion chaotic and winds here and there. I can see signs of hotels and restaurants and shops selling mobiles and daily small stuff one may need. People eyeball and smile at me as I'm a foreigner. Everything looks very rural and original.


AIBAR

AIBAR

AIBAR

AIBAR beach looking North 

We haven't gotten our breakfast yet so we quickly pop into a restaurant and order fish curry and parothas. The dish is so good that we practically hoover the plates empty and we order some more to go for the guys onboard. While I have a masala chai, Anil goes on a motorbike with our diveguide Sikandar to find some pickles. By the time they arrive back I'm on some fresh paan and we head back North towards the lagoon exit and head to Bangaram and Tinakara Island to chart the route there as well.

Bangaram in the background 

Bangaram

The atoll entrance to Bangaram is crystal clear and Sikandar guides the coxswain from the bow to avoid big coral heads that clutter the channel. There are some buoys but unless one knows how the channel is, it is difficult to interpret what they are warning for as the shapes and colors are not necessarily IALA standard. At first we tried rounding Bangaram on the SE but the water got just too shallow, the sandbank had filled the lagoon, so we ventured back to the entrance and rounded Bangaram on the SW. Bangaram also has a resort that has a permit to take foreign visitors but the resort is closed due to litigation. We can see people milling around and Sikandar tells me they are locals.

The emerald waters of the atoll

Once on the NW side we entered the lagoon (Bangaram is shaped like a crescent) and the depth went to well over 20m and we speed up until we come again into shallow waters and wind our way on the E side of the atoll at the ridge between live coral heads and the white bleached area. We came to the beach of Tinakara and turned back as time was getting short and guests were arriving soon. We could use speed now as the route was plotted into our GPS and we knew how the channel was. Soon enough we were back onboard IE and the tender was given a going over before heading towards Agatti Island and the airport.


Tinakara Island

The wind has picked up so while I go ashore to receive guests, Avnish moves IE into lee and anchors north of the North Eastern jetty. We sit at the AIBAR (Agatti International Beach And Resort) and wait for the plane to land. The resort is just next to the airstrip that is located on the extreme south end of the Island. AIBAR is the only resort on the Island that can accept foreign guests, next to AIBAR is a new resort called Sea Shells but as far as I understand they do not have the permit to accommodate foreigners. However I never got a straight answer whether I as a foreigner could venture into the village area and get lodging at one of the guest houses there.

Agatti commercial jetty (half way Island)

There are 2 planes arriving every day from Cochin, one carrier is Indian Airways and the other Kingfisher Airlines. It is not necessary to sit  in the terminal and look at a screen to see if the plane has landed, we can see and hear the plane and we get up and hurry to the terminal.

KFA has landed

While the girls receive guests I get the luggage organised on a local boat and it is accompanied by one deckhand to IE while we load the guests on the tenders. Once we're all set we start towards the ship at the tune of 30 knots and it does not take long before we have the guests onboard sipping welcome drinks and making themselves at home while the stewardesses are distributing luggage and unpacking it.

Passing the other commercial jetty (NW)

The rest of the afternoon and evening guests enjoy onboard.


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